ZOA Condemns NY Times’ Thomas Friedman for Anti-Semitic Statement that Jewish Money Buys Congress – Demands Friedman’s Retraction & Apology
December 21, 2011

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned as anti-Semitic New York Times’ columnist Thomas L. Friedman for stating in a recent column that “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby” (Thomas L. Friedman, ‘Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir,’ New York Times, December 13, 2011). The ZOA has condemned Friedman’s statement as a crude restatement of the main argument in the widely condemned anti-Semitic tract of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, which ZOA critiqued at its appearance as a working paper in 2006, and again when it appeared in book form in 2007. Mearsheimer and Walt argue that Jews exercise control over the U.S. Congress for Israel’s benefit at the expense of U.S. national interests. It is even reminiscent of the themes of the classic anti-Semitic tract, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The ZOA has called upon Friedman to publicly retract and apologize for his restatement of Mearsheimer and Walt’s anti-Semitic canard.


Mr. Netanyahu’s May 24 speech to a joint session of Congress followed an address by President Barack Obama promoting and supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the indefensible 1949 armistice lines. President Obama made this call without prior notification to Mr. Netanyahu on the eve of the latter’s trip to Washington, despite Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah/Palestinian Authority being an unreconstructed terror-promoting regime which has signed a unity government agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization, which calls in its Charter for the destruction of Israel and the world-wide murder of Jews. President Obama’s unprecedented public call for Israel to make these and other concessions, such as withdrawing from the strategically vital Jordan Valley – something never publicly demanded by any previous U.S. president – utterly compromised his stated commitment to Israel’s security.


In his address to the U.S. Congress, Mr. Netanyahu reminded the world of Hamas’ call for the world-wide murder of every Jew (which would include Thomas Friedman and his family) and reiterated that Israel would not negotiate with a Palestinian Authority (PA)/Hamas unity government, nor return to the perilous 1949 armistice lines. Mr. Netanyahu also spoke of the PA’s continuing promotion of terrorism and glorification of terrorists, of retaining Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, the need for Palestinian refugees and their million descendants to be resettled outside Israel and the vital importance of maintaining an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley. Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel must retain control over the Jewish holy places in Judea and Samaria. Mr. Friedman claims that Members of Congress overwhelmingly applauding such a speech occurred only because the Jewish pro-Israel lobby “bought and paid” for its support.


Renowned radio talk show host Dennis Prager has rightly written of Thomas Friedman’s ugly assertion of illicit Jewish power and influence over Congress that, “If a non-Jew had written this, he would have been severely condemned for writing something outright anti-Semitic. The notion that Jews manipulate the levers of power in Western societies for their own nefarious ends is probably the most enduring of all the West’s Jew-hating myths. It was a staple of Nazi anti-Semitism and is the single most repeated charge of those in the Arab and larger Muslim worlds who seek to annihilate Israel, since its purpose is to convince people that non-Jews who support Israel have been paid off by Jews” (Dennis Prager, ‘Why Thomas Friedman Abetted Anti-Semitism,’ Jewish World Review, December 20, 2011).


Rep. Steven R. Rothman (D-NJ) has said of Friedman’s ugly assertion that “Thomas Friedman’s defamation against the vast majority of Americans who support the Jewish State of Israel, in his New York Times opinion piece today, is scurrilous, destructive and harmful to Israel and her advocates in the U.S. Mr. Friedman is not only wrong, but he’s aiding and abetting a dangerous narrative about the U.S.-Israel relationship and its American supporters. I gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a standing ovation, not because of any nefarious lobby, but because it is in America’s vital national security interests to support the Jewish State of Israel, and it is right for Congress to give a warm welcome to the leader of such a dear and essential ally. Mr. Friedman owes us all an apology.” 


Thomas Friedman’s vicious statement about the Israel lobby is merely the latest in many years of false and hostile anti-Israel statements. In February 2004, for example, Friedman claimed that Israel’s leaders were “conspiring” to manipulate President Bush and Vice President Cheney, saying, that Israel’s then-Prime Minister, “has had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who’s ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates, and by political handlers telling the president not to put any pressure on Israel in an election year all conspiring to make sure the president does nothing.” Also, in his 1989 book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, Friedman claimed Israel was obsessed with the Holocaust and the country was “Yad Vashem with an air force.” He has repeatedly blamed Israel for the lack of peace. rarely has he blamed the Palestinian Arabs. In the 1990s, the late David Bar-Ilan, former editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post and then director of communications to Prime Minister Netanyahu, said that Friedman’s troubling record rendered him an anti-Zionist who should not be invited to speak to Zionist groups.


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA regards it as horrific for Thomas Friedman and the New York Times to promote the anti-Semitic canard that the bipartisan, favorable response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address in May this year before the U.S. Congress was the result of illicit Jewish power and influence over our elected representatives on Capitol Hill.


“Numerous polls have shown the true reason why the U.S. Congress is strongly supportive of Israel and thus open to Mr. Netanyahu’s repudiation of President Obama’s worrying policies towards Israel – because the U.S. public views Israel as an ally and therefore consistently and overwhelmingly supports Israel over the Palestinians, recognizes that Israel’s enemies want to destroy it and want the U.S. to support Israel rather than the Palestinians. A May 2011 CNN Opinion Research Poll CNN poll showed that 67% of Americans express sympathy for Israel rather than Palestinians, whereas only 16% expressed sympathy for Palestinians over Israelis. An April 2010 Quinnipiac University survey, to cite another example, found that 44% of the American public disapprove of the Obama Administration’s policy towards Israel and the Palestinians. A February 2010 Gallup Annual World Affairs survey, to cite a third, found that 63% of Americans say their sympathies in the Middle East situation lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians, as against 15% who favored the Palestinians.


“Former Congressman Lee Hamilton – no friend of Israel – even once admitted in the early 1990s at an anti-Israel conference in Washington D.C., which I attended, that he had many churches but few synagogues in his district, yet he had to support Israel because his Christian constituents were pro-Israel. This is the true and enduring source of support for Israel in the U.S. Congress.


“It is therefore a willful anti-Semitic falsehood to suggest that the Congress applauded Mr. Netanyahu’s address because of being ‘bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.’ 


“Thomas Friedman’s pathetic attempt to back-peddle by claiming he should have written that the applause for Mr. Netanyahu’s speech was merely ‘engineered’ by the pro-Israel lobby is an insult to everyone’s intelligence. Such a re-writing in no way alters the nature of his charge that support for Israel is manufactured by the lobby and, in any case, Mr. Friedman says he stands by what he wrote ‘100 percent.’ With this charge, Friedman denies the importance of U.S. Congressional support for Israel and, by delegitimizing that support, he joins the ranks of Israel haters. Tragically, he has now provided cover for anti-Semites to make the same argument while being able to claim that they are merely repeating what the Jewish journalist Thomas Friedman has been saying.


“The ZOA urges both the New York Times and Thomas Friedman to publicly retract and apologize for this vicious bias and hatred towards the Jewish state and the Jewish people. Clearly, if he had made similar remarks about women, African-Americans, gays or Latinos, there would be severe consequences for Mr. Friedman. The Jewish people deserve no less.”

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